Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), whose removal had sparked outrage in and outside the environs of the university, has been called back to office. Recalling the statement released by the university on Wednesday, Prof. Ogundipe had been ordered to step aside on grounds of ‘serious acts of wrongdoing, gross misconduct, financial recklessness and abuse of office.’
Apart from the accusations contained in the probationary report, other allegations against the Vice-Chancellor include; financial misconduct, forgery, information concealment, undermining of academic process and a plot to appoint a professor by fiat; siphoning of university funds through dubious contract awards; sponsoring or acquiescing unconstitutional actions of the UNILAG branch of ASUU, and undermining of the office of the registrar, amongst others. The statement made by Mr. Wale Babalakin, UNILAG’s Pro-Chancellor, showed that the University Council discovered that there was no financial accountability in the University during the tenure of Prof. Ogundipe. In Babalakin’s words, ‘the financial recklessness of the Management of the University is scandalous.’
In a report issued by the committee set up to investigate issues of financial recklessness in the university, it was highlighted that the Vice-Chancellor, the bursar and the immediate-past registrar had spent N49,434,038, N41,817,658, and N16,123,509.00 respectively in renovating their houses. The committee maintained that, ‘This was done without any approval. It was not even mentioned to anybody in Council. It was unilaterally done by the Management.’ In response to this accusation, Prof. Ogundipe said:
‘The renovation work includes both civil works and housing furniture. In accordance with the Memorandum of Appointment (MOA), outgoing VCs leave with their furniture. Consequently, the total furniture stated in the report should be broken down into renovations and purchase of furniture and equipment respectively. On assumption of office, after evaluation of the state of the property, the Works and Physical Planning Department identified certain deficiencies that needed attention. For example, leaking roof, old louvres (which gave an opportunity for rodents and snakes ingress).’
Defences raised by Prof. Ogundipe on each allegation against him were refuted and utterly countered by the committee. The committee accused the Vice Chancellor of engaging in a long list of expenditures without any sort of approval. This includes monthly pay of about 2.5million to the Dean of Student’s Affairs, N2.5million as security vote; the payment of N117.9 million to two security companies without valid contracts; extra-budgetary expenditure regarding the 2017 UNILAG convocation ceremony; and also contract splitting for the purchase of two Toyota Avensis 2.0 for DVC (Management Services) as well as DVC (Development Services) in 2018.
The merry-go-round and the autonomous decision of the university management have warranted the intervention of the Federal Government who had given an approval of a Visitation Panel. The panel was mandated to investigate the reason behind the VC’s removal and other allegations levelled against. The White Paper released, stating the government’s legal position on the matter, was developed based on the findings and recommendations of the seven-member presidential visitation panel.
However, the Chairman of the Panel in the person of Sa’ad Tukur, a former vice-chancellor, Federal University of Technology (FUT), Minna, Niger State, has faulted the FG’s decision to reinstate Prof. Ogundipe. He stated that, ‘The recommendation that the VC should be reinstated was limited to the procedure of his termination. It did not mean he should be absolved of all wrong doing.’ The Chairman opined that the matter should be fairly judged, and should not be tilted in favour of one subject. He added that the absence of an unbiased resolution on this issue may result in more illegal and unfair practices.